Under Armour, US Speedskating renew contract for eight years

BALTIMORE — US Speedskating and Under Armour announced an eight-year contract renewal through the 2022 Olympics on Friday morning.

The extension of their initial partnership, which has the Baltimore-based sports apparel company as the exclusive competition uniform provider for the national team, comes soon after a controversy where Under Armour skinsuits were blamed for the team's lackluster performance at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The contract, set to expire this year, will now continue until Dec. 31, 2022, according to a news release. An Under Armour spokeswoman said Friday morning that the company cannot disclose the financial specifics of the deal.

The initial exclusivity agreement was instated in 2011.

In an interview Friday morning, Under Armour executive Matt Mirchin said the company finalized the deal with US Speedskating quickly to drive home that the partnership remains strong and Under Armour still believes in both the athletes and the Mach 39 suit design.

"This deal got done on a much quicker time frame," said Mirchin, Under Armour's executive vice president of global marketing. "We wanted to send a message to the world that Under Armour and US Speedskating, when we get knocked down, we get back up and want to come back and be bigger, stronger, faster and better in 2018. When athletes are awarded medals, it will be Americans receiving them."

Mirchin noted that U.S Olympic and speedskating officials have said in the wake of the controversy that the suits were not to blame. The suits were designed to shave hundredths of seconds off speed, but couldn't account for speeds that were slower by full seconds, he said.

"If we didn't believe in the Mach 39, we would never have allowed it to be used in an Olympic setting," said Mirchin, noting that it was put through hundreds of hours of testing and would be back for the 2018 games in Seoul — after athletes have more time to test and compete in them. "The Mach 39 will live. We know that it's the best suit out there to wear."

The agreement calls for Under Armour to provide not only training and competition suits but marketing help to building up and promote the sport at a grassroots level, Mirchin said.

The deal was announced to the American speedskaters early Friday by US Speedskating Executive Director Ted Morris "to let them know about the commitment and that we believe in the team, and it was exceptionally well received," Mirchin said.

"US Speedskating remains extremely grateful to have such a supportive partner and to have access to Under Armour's game-changing innovations, which have helped propel countless athletes around the world to championship results," US Speedskating president Mike Plant said in a release on Friday.

Two team competitions for the men and women skaters remain in the games.

"It has always been Under Armour's mission to make all athletes better, and we are proud to make our biggest commitment ever to the US Speedskating team by providing these championship competitors with leading innovations and training resources to help them fulfill their dreams on the world's biggest stages," said Kevin Plank, Under Armour founder and CEO, in the release.

American speedskaters haven't won any medals during the Sochi Olympics. Four years ago, in Vancouver, American speed skaters scooped 10 medals.

Last week, the apparel company's Mach 39 race suit – marketed as the fastest suit ever – became the prime suspect for the team's disappointing performance. Midway through the competition, skaters swapped them for suits worn during World Cup season, but skaters still did not earn any medals.

Under Armour also has uniform-exclusivity agreements with USA Bobsled and Skeleton, USA Gymnastics and Canada Snowboard.

Chicago Tribune reporter Jared Hopkins contributed to this report.


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